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When God was a Rabbit [Paperback]

Sarah Winman
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (491 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

12 May 2011

1968. The year Paris takes to the streets. The year Martin Luther King loses his life for a dream. The year Eleanor Maud Portman is born.

Young Elly's world is shaped by those who inhabit it: her loving but maddeningly distractible parents; a best friend who smells of chips and knows exotic words like 'slag'; an ageing fop who tapdances his way into her home, a Shirley Bassey impersonator who trails close behind; lastly, of course, a rabbit called God. In a childhood peppered with moments both ordinary and extraordinary, Elly's one constant is her brother Joe.

Twenty years on, Elly and Joe are fully grown and as close as they ever were. Until, that is, one bright morning when a single, earth-shattering event threatens to destroy their bond forever.

Spanning four decades and moving between suburban Essex, the wild coast of Cornwall and the streets of New York, this is a story about childhood, eccentricity, the darker side of love and sex, the pull and power of family ties, loss and life. More than anything, it's a story about love in all its forms.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review (12 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755379306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755379309
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (491 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sarah Winman grew up in Essex. She attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and went on to act in theatre, film and television. WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT is her first novel. She lives in London.

Product Description

Review

'Gloriously offbeat... Winman's narrative voice is beautifully true, with a child's unsentimental clarity. A superb debut' (The Times)

'Beguiling... you can't quite get the voice out of your head' (Daily Mail)

'Captivating... rendered with an appealing frankness, precision and emotional acuity' (Observer)

'Thronging with incident, wonder and outré language... sharply funny, whimsical and innovative' (The Guardian)

Review

'At times laugh-out-loud funny, at others gut-wrenchingly sad, the book is peppered with unique and complex characters who are so original, well-observed and believable that you'll be completely absorbed into their world'--Easy Living

‘It perfectly captures the hazy, magical nature of youth and all its mysteries, against a backdrop of real-life events'--Elle

'A story of siblings, friendship, secrets and love, told with sadness and humour'--Marie Claire

'A genuinely captivating read'--Glamour

'Mesmerising'--Good Housekeeping

‘In the way that David Nicholls' ONE DAY follows two people through their lives, this traces a family story over four decades in the most unexpected way'--Red Magazine

'Exciting debut...a fabulously quirky novel'--Woman & Home

‘It's rare to find a novel you're recommending to friends, family and colleagues by page 60 but When God Was A Rabbit is just that kind of book... it's funny (embarrassingly so on public transport), recognizably true and heart-breaking in equal measure... A truly great book to lose yourself in; prepare to bore everyone else around you by telling them just how much they need to read it'--Stylist

'Winman's narrative voice is beautifully true, with a child's unsentimental clarity. A superb debut'--The Times

'I think what I liked most about this novel is that it was a rollicking family story - in which we get to know a fairly large cast of eccentric characters and follow them through some tricky decades. What was extra appealing to me was that the years covered by this debut novel by Sarah Winman are those--almost exactly--of my own life'--Paul Magrs

‘When I got to the end I had to immediately contact a couple of other people who had also been given proof copies, just so I could talk about it. What I particularly liked was the possibility of interpretation of events. Winman reels you in to her world and makes you work for resolution. What she does not do is manipulate you or lay it all out on a plate'--Booktopia.com

‘There are books that tug on the heartstrings, and then there are full-on tractor pulls. When God Was a Rabbit falls into the latter category...[Winman's] prose also has an elegiac, simple beauty, which she uses to nimbly guide her characters through 30-odd eventful years of history...Winman really proves herself capable of making camp inside our tear ducts--and of, one hopes, writing other novels in the future'--Globe and Mail (Toronto)

‘Savour the fragile beauty of the writing. Another Mark Haddon in the making? We reckon so'--Irish Times

‘Gloriously offbeat... Winman's narrative voice is beautifully true, with a child's unsentimental clarity. A superb debut'--The Times

‘Winman pulls a good number of rabbits from her hat in a picaresque coming-of-age tale...[An] affecting and original debut--Library Journal

‘A heartbreaking story of the secrets and hopes of a sister and brother who share an unshakable bond. Winman shows impressive range and vision'--Publishers Weekly

‘Winman's fiction debut, spanning the late 1960s and early 2000s, boasts one of the more endearingly unconventional families in a while... [Winman's] quirky voice maintains its energy; even at her most precocious, Elly never wears out her welcome'--Kirkus

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
146 of 156 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it 10 Aug 2011
Format:Paperback
A very unusual book, told from the perspective of a young, then older girl / woman as she moves through her life. As the book states, though it is written very much like an autobiographical account, it really only focuses on the key moments of her life - the moments that hold the most impact, the most important or pivotal moments. For that reason, one could easily be forgiven for thinking it a more sensationalised life story - but it really isn't. Take your own life as an example, think of the biggest and most influential moments of your life - be they positive or negative, if you put them into a story, but omitted most of what was in between each event, you'd probably have quite a sensational story of your own!

This story focuses on the key moments from the life of Eleanor Maud, a young girl from a nice, loving family. Her parents love her and she has a very close relationship with her older brother Joe. Despite coming from a loving and protective home, Ellie still sees the ugly side of life, her parents placing trust where it doesn't belong, or brushes with death of family / friends. However the biggest exposure to the darker side of life for Ellie is when she meets Jenny Penny. Jenny is a girl of roughly the same age but who doesn't come from a loving or responsible home. Jenny struggles with life and though she never really envies Ellie and her family, she longs to be a part of it. Ellie's realisation that not all families are the same, and not everyone is as lucky as her is a key theme throughout the book. Even later in the book when she is older, this idea that, through all life has thrown at her, she should still feel fortunate really holds true.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasant Surprise 7 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed this book tremendously. Read in two evening sittings, the pages turned themselves. I had avoided the book a little due to the title, but Atheists can rest easy, this is not a God book. I found that I did connect to the characters, although they were not always totally likeable. If I had to sum this book up in one word it would be Pathos. It fulfilled the criteria for "something different". I read two or three books a week and unlike many others I found myself describing this book to my husband. I understand many of the criticisms levelled at this book and in many cases agree. However, this book entertained me, made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think. What more?
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283 of 306 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what the fuss is about... 9 Jun 2011
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
Firstly, let me say that I did enjoy this book, and I realise I'm in the minority in not thinking it is amazing. So, fully anticipating a lynching, I will list what I thought was wrong with it:

- Simply far too much happens. It seems as if the author has taken everything she has ever thought about and splurged it on the page. She touches on a wide range of topics, each one of which could occupy a whole book by itself, but she barely skims them. This is not only overwhelming to the reader, but it serves to trivialise these important issues. There also doesn't appear to be any uniting theme. There is an element of 'and then this happened, and then this happened' and the reader is left wondering why.
- I couldn't identify with the main character, who appeared to be a wry observer who was unaffected by the events in her life. I think this would have worked better told in the third person, as we never really get under the skin of the narrator.
- The narrative is all over the place, appearing disjointed and unedited - something which really isn't helped by the gap between each paragraph, which gives the impression of a change in scene/time and causes the reader to readjust every time it happens.

So onto the good stuff. Firstly, the book was extremely funny, in a very subtle way. Several times I laughed out loud and I applaud the author for this: genuinely funny writing is hard to come by. Secondly, the writing and the descriptions are very beautiful, and some of the similes are spot on and breathtaking. These two things alone deserve three stars, and I was so impressed with them I would like to give the book more. However, a beautiful style and impeccable comic timing do not, unfortunately, make up for unlikeable characters, disjointed story telling and a lack of unity. Sorry, guys.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Letting Go 21 Jan 2012
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
I loved this story.

I loved the narrator. I loved her humour and her observations, and the way her life was described with such clever brush strokes, so much could be said in so few words. The fact that the book is both shocking and humorous shows the incredible skill of the author. There were times when I laughed out loud and yet, on the next page, I would ache with sadness for Elly and Jenny Penny.

This is a beautiful story. It's a story of childhood and coming of age, but these intimate moments of growing up are set against a backdrop of world events, which only adds to their fragility. There are many different shades and themes but, above all, I think it's a story about letting go. It's about loss (of childhood, of innocence and of the people we love) and about how we move on when we lose the one thing to us which is most precious. By the end of the story, I was so wrapped in the characters, I almost couldn't bear to let go myself.

Stunning.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars loved 1st half, not so much 2nd half
I loved the 1st half of this book, when Elly was a child but I felt the story lot its way a little in the 2nd half when she is an adult. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Kim Sharpe
4.0 out of 5 stars Different!
This was chosen as part of my book club, so not my normal choice of book. It was written well and had an interesting kind of twist towards the end. It was also an easy read.
Published 26 days ago by Mrs Lorraine Lindsey
5.0 out of 5 stars good
Great book, I am a massive bookworm so I love all books but I would definitely recommend this book to my friends and family.
Published 1 month ago by becccci
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh!
I so loved this book! I laughed and cried my way through it. I found myself reading whilst standing up on trains and even then walking home! Highly recommended.
Published 1 month ago by jo helgeson
5.0 out of 5 stars Story gets better as you go along
I really enjoyed reading this story. It took me a while to be captivated by it & the second half is definitely better than the beginning. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ronnie
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing book
A bit dark in places, but such an amazing read! The characters really draw you in! Covers some pivotal moments in the worlds history.
Published 1 month ago by vgmlondon
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Perfect!
I think I found this book at just the right time and place in my life and for that reason I'm a bit like a Mum with her darling youngest child... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bees Knees
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyably Different
I really enjoyed a lot about this book, I liked the time period ,its when I grew up, and I loved some of the characters. Read more
Published 1 month ago by A Thomas-Davis
3.0 out of 5 stars different
Can understand why people would be put off by the title. Book club read which led to a lively discussion. Would not rush to read any more by this author.
Published 2 months ago by evelynm1950
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
brilliant wit, laced with trials and hardships of life and everything familiar that keeps us rooted to our true being
Published 2 months ago by Kelli cichero
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